The Growing Plague that is Spam

Spam sucks. We all hate it, but no matter how good the filter, something always seems to get through. Want some cheap Vi4gr4? I can tell you where to get it. New Scientist takes a look at the spamdemic. It costs very little to send tens of thousands of emails, but it only takes a tiny percentage of idiots to make it all worth it for spammers.

Seriously – who falls for these things?

  • oRo1exWatches $200 Off – Each Free Shipping Watch, 2 Days Left, Snap UP! rkru kp
  • USA: ~Percocent~Ritalin best sale !!
  • ~~~Good day :~~~Vicodi~ _ P~ercocet~~~
  • 100 percent male power
  • Heartfelt Plea from Supreme Master Ching Hai: Be Organic Vegan and Loving Kindness for Saving Lives

I have to admit my spam folder does supply brief moments of amusement every now and then, but come on.

[via Data Mining]


  • I wonder what the additional power costs are in terms of server load, etc. Maybe spam is responsible for a little bit of climate change :)

  • Maybe we need a new strategy to fight spam. Educate all email users not to fall for it so that spam won’t be worthwhile anymore.

    • Winslow Theramin March 24, 2010 at 11:14 am

      I haven’t seen a single spam message in probably two years. Gmail and whatever filtering system my employer uses has effectively blocked it all.

      This shows to me that identifying and filtering spam is a solved problem. I wonder what the conversion rate is for messages sent to gmail accounts where filtering is so good. At some point it must seem like a waste of time if there conversion rate is 0.

      • i wouldn’t say solved, but definitely a lot of progress. spammers are always finding new ways to get stuff through. i use gmail too, and stuff still gets through from time-to-time.

        there are also a lot of other outlets though like twitter, or even here on FD, i have to deal with comment spam quite a bit.

      • It is not solved. As the graphic illustrates, it is a huge problem. I work for an organization with 80 people. Our IT manager periodically lets us know about the spam situation. This is the most recent email I could find from him:

        “The month of August was a pretty typical month in terms of stats:
        644,528 email messages were sent to our users
        95.31 percent were blocked”

        That is a lot of spam. The effort and resources dedicated to blocking that are significant. Occasionally important emails from legitimate sources are also accidentally blocked.

      • Winslow Theramin March 24, 2010 at 4:58 pm


        What I mean by “solved” is that Google (and others) have proven that spam filtering can effectively block so much spam that it becomes ineffective. If all mail systems used filters as sophisticated as Google’s there simply wouldn’t be enough getting through to end users to make it worth it.

        Spam is still of course a problem but that’s only because so much is allowed to get through, but it doesn’t have to as I’ve see demonstrated everyday by the utter lack of spam I receive.

  • Gmail spam filters are very good. A small handful of false positives and negatives a week.

    Akismet for WordPress is awesome: a few false positives and negatives a month.

    In the past week I’ve noticed at least a doubling of blog comment spam.

  • haha… spam… god, I hate spam.

    • I think I read that the conversion rate for spam nowadays is something like 0.00008%, which could be a reason why we’re seeing more and more, no? … the more people ignore it, the more the “spammers” need to spam to hook the less-informed. I dunno, maybe. Just a thought.

  • The PDF version of this image from the New Scientist magazine’s website is really high-quality. –well-suited to large display fullscreen viewing:

    As a side note, email is of course just one piece of the pie. Youtube comments, Twitter, etc. Those are the frontiers of spam (and spam-prevention).

  • Vincibus Eruptum March 24, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    At some point doesn’t spam become a victim of its own success? Spam may be cheap but it isn’t free (especially to those purchasing the services of the botnet operations)

    With so many people buying spam “campaigns” at what point does it become so saturated that it is no longer economical to do anymore?

    Presumably all these spam campaign buyers are after the finite number of chumps that exist out there. How much Viagra can they possibly buy?

  • I have to admit, I was a little disappointed it wasn’t a graphic about processed meat. :)

  • The majority of spam originates from botnets running on home computers (Primarily Windows) which have been compromised by computer viruses and malware.

    The primary culprit here are irresponsible computer users who do not keep their software maintained and up to date with the latest patches, users who do not activate the firewall on their DSL routers, users who do not run antivirus/antimalware software to remove and prevent infections, and users who run pirated versions of Windows (and thus cannot receive patches).

    Microsoft is also irresponsible for releasing software which contains high numbers of security holes. They also disallow certain software patches to machines running unlicensed versions of Windows. To their credit, Windows patches do fix most security problems.

  • I once got a message with the title “fraudulent spam.” Really!

  • Jayakrishnan G March 28, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Spamming should be treated as cyber crime. It sucks a lot of time, energy, space, resources, etc.

    Even though the spam filters offered by mail services are good, its an annoyance – particularly the soft spams. Because, as humans we have a tendency to scan through the collected spams to check whether any valid mail has landed into spam.

    Btw, regarding treating spammers as offenders some rules can be defined by an international consortium to draw the line on when a spam becomes a crime!